Oliver Brown, Head of Product, Care and Support Tools at Imosphere, explores how financial pressures and a lack of certainty over adult social care funding is a problem for local authorities and the need to bring reform to an already stretched system
A new inquiry has been launched by The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee to understand how adult social care should be funded in the long term and how the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the landscape since the last set of recommendations were published in 2018.
Although this latest enquiry is encouraging, it’s worth mentioning that this is nothing new. Over the years there have been various consultations in social care, however, the pandemic has shone a spotlight on our loved ones, especially those who need support, and mercilessly exposed any gaps that have led to Britain’s vulnerable residents being isolated and alone. MPs will now consider how additional funds for adult social care can be raised, and how the adult social care market can be improved.
Significant financial pressures and a lack of certainty over funding is a real problem for local authorities. The Department for Health and Social Care projects that demand for adult social care will increase significantly as people live longer. So too will the costs. Between 2018 and 2038, it estimates that the total costs of adult social care will more than double to £55.8 billion – it’s clear that a long-term sustainable plan for funding is required.
As a starting point for reform, Care England has called for an annual £7 billion increase in social care funding. But how can the sector ensure that any current and future funds are fairly distributed and fully reflect the need across the country?
According to the health and social care committee, one solution is to set a cap of £48k on the amount people are expected to pay for care over their lifetime, helping to protect people against the high costs of care. Although introducing a cap would require an injection of funds, it would introduce a fairer system and bring about funding reforms that are so desperately needed. Everyone has the right to access care when they need it, so why should some people have to pay when others don’t?
To encourage and support people to lead as independent and fulfilling a life as they can, reform should also focus on enablement and funding put in place to assist this approach. Investing in short-term aftercare support improves independence and prolongs people’s ability to live at home, as well as removing or reducing the need for commissioned care. This delivers better outcomes for service users and the level of support and funding for the longer term.
COVID-19 has been the biggest challenge the health and care system has faced in living memory. It is essential that we use this experience to bring about positive change so that we can improve services and access to funding for the health and well-being of everyone, creating a social care system that is consistent, fair and accessible.